Good news!

Hello faithful readers:

First off I wanted to thank you the readers. You all have be a blast to learn from and really engage with.  I know that over the past couple of months there has been a lacking of consist content on the site and for that I do apologize. But we hope to have that fixed in the coming weeks!

Couple of house keeping notes.

1. I have found a University to partner with in this blog! That means over this next semester they will be taking over it.  I trust this University and the people that will be managing it.  We are in talks now about how to move everything over etc. I am not going to disclose the University yet as we still need to hammer out some details.

2. Fresh content will start flowing from this site yet again. I am taking my final entrepreneurship seminar class at Bethel and I an required to read 3 different entrepreneurship books so I will definitely be blogging about these books.  More information coming soon!

Thanks for following the blog! Till next time.

-Adam

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Wisdoms from a Student Entrepreneur

It’s really tough to be everything at one time. A good student, a good Student Body President, and a good entrepreneur. The honest truth is (and not enough people truly believe this) you can’t be great at everything. But another truth is, you ARE destined for greatness, but as a student, it’s very likely you’re involved in too many things.

One thing about college is having the opportunity to ‘get a taste for everything.’ But would you rather taste a little of everything or have a whole pie? You’ll have to consider the opportunity costs.

As a student, I still manage an ecommcerce startup by the name of Blank Label. My time investment each week averages 35-40 hours. Of course I still maintain a social life, and of course I still keep up decent grades and am a full-time student, but I am heavily involved in my business. Why? Because I love what I do, and because the experience is far richer, than if I were to take a class in Greek mythology, party harder, or even study abroad for 6 months in Barcelona! By the way, I honestly gave up all of those opportunities to work on Blank Label.

You can’t be a 4.0 student if you’re managing a company, doing this, this and that. In fact, you really shouldn’t be trying to do too many things at once. Although you should be getting a slight taste of everything, you shouldn’t try to be everything and everyone all the time. There’s the old cliché that there’s never enough hours in the day and days in the week, which is completely true, especially since you’re a student and have commitments to your academics.

But something’s gotta give. You can’t be a 4.0 student and truly expect to be a great entrepreneur. There’s just no way. Certainly, you can be a prospective entrepreneur and dabble with a start-up and wait until summer, vacation, or graduation hits to really go hard at your business, but if you really want to commit yourself to your business, don’t let ‘life get in the way.’ In other words, don’t let your friends pull you away from your business every time they call you to come out, and certainly don’t just put your business on hold because you’ve just come back to school after vacation. It’s incredibly easy to be a ‘seasonal’ entrepreneur, which really means you’re not much of one at all.

Sacrificing higher grades, parties every weekend (you don’t have to miss all of them but some of them, yes), lots of time to sit down and just watch TV, are just a few things you as a student entrepreneur must do for your experience to be its richest. Just love what you do and put your whole heart into it. Don’t half-ass things because going half-ass is never going to get you anywhere.

This post was written by Danny Wong, Lead Web Strategist for Blank Label, provider of custom dress shirts. You can read more of his musings at Blank Label’s Fashion and Lifestyle Blog.

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bootstrapping: a real life example

I have been ‘attempting’ to build a web application for a long time now … roughly 9 months. I have been bootstrapping most of the operation.  I have either A. built what I can myself or B. outsourced it to someone who can do it better than I can.  It has been an awesome time of learning and growth but its time to face the music. The money for outsourcing has run out and I am not at the level that I can program the rest of the application.

I have been reading a bunch of Guy Kawasaki stuff lately and I am encouraged by him.  Specifically this article about bootstrapping. He has some great advice and I would recommend anyone in my same position to read the article and start following his blog.  Great stuff.

Back to this web app.  Let me example a little bit of what it is and what the vision/dream is.  Many, many, many businesses are entering the social media field. They know there is money to be made.  This is true.  Being able to connect directly to your customer is awesome and gives you some great opportunities. With that being said. There is a need for a company to be able to produce detailed findings or reports for these companies that are now spending some big bucks hiring social media guru’s to help them figure out what to do and how to do it.

Here is where my web application comes into play.  Lets take one social media platform, Twitter for example, there are potentially millions of people ‘following’ you on Twitter.  What if an application could tell you: what they tweeted about the most, where they were located, what time zone they were in, male/female, what time they were most online, what links they retweeted, etc.  All of this information can prove to be very useful to big company trying to reach their audience. Now go beyond Twitter.  Think at least some analysis for Facebook, Twitter, etc.

To continue to bootstrap this idea I have even ventured into the viral marketing realm with the purchase of the domain pleasefundmybusiness.com! I love the idea and concept but will it work. We will see. NOTE: the site is NOT finished like .. AT ALL!

My question to you Mr./Mrs. Reader is this: What should I do?  Do you like the idea? Any words of wisdom suggestions etc?

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Generation X: The Confused Generation

I’ve heard it in podcasts many times and read about it – but now I’m seeing it so often in my clients and contacts: Generation X is the Confused Generation.  I’m Gen X, so I don’t mind busting on my own kind.

Run down of the generations (from my Managing the Next Generation CPA Firm post on my THRIVEal.com blog):

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, about 78 to 80 million folks, currently running our country, most getting ready to retire,

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977, about 40 to 41 million strong, currently in management of our companies and in the depths of building their careers and families,

Generation Y, or Millenials (a very entrepreneurial generation) born between 1978 and 2000, about 70 million of these guys (depending on who you talk to or what you read), still in school, or graduating from college and beginning their careers (or their own companies),

This is not a study on demographics (though you would be crazy NOT to study demographics as you build your business), so let’s just focus on the guys sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y – The Generation X.  The Baby Boomers and Gen Y almost equal each other in size, while the Gen X army is half what the Baby Boomers are, and struggling whom to identify with.  At half the size, who will they be loyal to?  Their bosses or their future customers?  As I run into folks my age (I’m 38 born in 1971), I use to assume they loved technology, love to challenge the common place in their organizations, and consumed information in tiny little bites at a rapid pace.  But I’m learning that is not so.

Some of my friends my age aren’t using technology, they still order their FranklinCovey day planners (bigger than your Grandmother’s Family Bible sitting on her coffee table), and they do their accounting on paper or in Excel.  Then there are some in my generation that are miles ahead of me in building relationships through social media and always innovating in their companies to create new products that have never existed before.  Obviously, I tend to identify with the latter.

My thoughts:

1.  Since newer generations coming up are going to require us to be innovative and on the cutting edge of technology, we need to identify with them because they will become our new customers,

2.  Stop the confusion.  If in fact your business will be serving older generations that retire (maybe the medical industry), then you need to know whom you serve and serve them wholeheartedly.  No more confusion – identify with the generations that will drive your business model into the future,

3.  Study demographics, and the changing face of generations in our country.  Study what they need, what they want and how they expect you to serve them.  They will be your customers.  And if you are just entering the workplace, then you will potentially see new generations that we know nothing of yet.  Study who behaves in what ways and try to figure out why.  It will make you a better business woman.

So this is a call to my brethren in the Gen X category – know who you are!  Don’t fall into one camp or the other because that is the way you were taught, or your last boss had leanings toward one management style or another.  Study who you want to serve and why you want to serve them, and drive in that direction with vision and precision.  What do you think?  Am I way off?  Leave it in the comments.

Thanks, Jason M. Blumer

Jason M. Blumer, CPA, is the Managing Shareholder of Blumer & Associates, CPAs in South Carolina, and the writer of the THRIVEal blog.  He and his firm are notoriously addicted to preaching, installing and improving the processes in their firm, their client’s businesses and their industry as a whole.  Their interests lie in helping their clients THINK, RESPOND, GROW and  THRIVE.  With a niche focus on the newer generations in the professional services industries, Jason and his team often wear flip flops and jeans to work and refer to their client base as “dudes”.

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

You’re Invited to join eCornell’s Entrepreneur Online Video Contest

eCornell is celebrating the growth of the entrepreneurial community by challenging all entrepreneurs to
share their unique take on meeting consumer needs. Now through November 30, eCornell is inviting all
entrepreneurs who are developing (or have already developed) a new product or service to submit a
quick video (5 minutes or less) that explains or demonstrates their process for understanding what
customers want and satisfying their needs. The first-place winner will receive a full scholarship (a $3,500
value) for Cornell’s newest online certificate program, A Systems Approach to Product and Service
Design, which arms entrepreneurs with a unique eight-step process for effective product development.
Second-and third-place winners will have the opportunity to enroll in two eCornell product design
courses each, free of charge ($1,250 value for both courses). Winners will be selected based on quality
of response, creativity, and methodology, and will be announced on December 14, 2009.

This is a great opportunity for you to connect with the brightest minds in the startup community,
generate brand awareness for yourself and your respective organizations on campus, and claim your
FREE opportunity to win a full scholarship to one of the top universities in the nation.

Visit http://www.ecornell.com/l-entrepreneur-video-contest/ to learn more about the contest, review
official rules, and submit your video entries. Enter yourself, or share the link with your classmates on
campus.

For additional information, feel free to contact Tai Giang at 888.960.9994 or tg@caridan.com.

Good luck!

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kickstarter.com

If you haven’t heard of kickstarter.com you need to check it out.  It’s takes crowd sourcing to a totally new level.  The site’s idea is to provide a forum for people to pitch their ideas and then have people be able to participate in the idea by backing that idea with money.  For that backing of that idea you get insider information about how the idea is coming along as well as some other trinkets.  The other trinkets depends on the project.  Some projects give away T-Shirts or you might have a song written about the you or get a certain amount of months of the service. The goal is to raise that money that you need and give the end user something that they might want as well!

So far there have been several successful projects.  There is currently a project that is putting together all of the media used in the Obama Presidential campaign.  Its a sweet idea. They are trying to raise $65,000 they have all ready raised $50,000+ which is incredible!

It is an all or nothing kind of thing.  The projects are timed.  If you don’t get the full funding then you don’t get any funding.  All of the backers are charged at the same time as soon as the project’s deadline ends.

There are a ton of ideas on the site.  Any ideas that you might want to put on the site? Let me know! I am trying to get some invites!

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The State of the Economy, According to the Federal Reserve Board’s “Beige Book”

The goal of our Federal Reserve is to “provide the nation with a safe, flexible and stable monetary and financial system.”  Basically, it’s a big fat bank providing our private banks with stabilization when needed and overseeing the many actions of our private banks within twelve separate districts in the US.

And you may not know that the Federal Reserve also offers some pretty cool reporting too.  A lot of nerdy stats.  For example, you can go to the statistical pages of the Federal Reserve and see how consumer credit is fairing from 2004 through July of 2009 (the table below is a direct copy from the Federal Reserve site here):

CONSUMER CREDIT OUTSTANDING
Seasonally adjusted
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 2008                            2009
                                                                        _______________________ _______________________________________

                                2004 r  2005 r  2006 r  2007 r  2008 r   Q2 r    Q3 r    Q4 r    Q1 r    Q2 r    May r   Jun r   Jul p
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Percent change at annual rate 2
  Total                            5.6     4.5     4.1     5.6     1.6     4.1     0.6    -3.0    -3.7    -6.6    -4.2    -7.4   -10.4
   Revolving                       4.1     3.8     5.0     7.8     1.9     5.0     3.3    -7.3    -9.6    -9.7   -12.1    -6.4    -8.0
   Nonrevolving 3                  6.4     4.9     3.6     4.4     1.4     3.6    -1.0    -0.4    -0.2    -4.8     0.4    -8.0   -11.7

Amount: billions of dollars
  Total                         2191.5  2291.0  2384.8  2519.5  2559.1  2574.3  2578.3  2559.1  2535.3  2493.6  2509.2  2493.6  2472.1
   Revolving                     799.2   829.8   871.3   939.6   957.3   967.2   975.2   957.3   934.3   911.7   916.6   911.7   905.6
   Nonrevolving 3               1392.3  1461.2  1513.5  1579.9  1601.8  1607.1  1603.2  1601.8  1601.0  1581.9  1592.6  1581.9  1566.5

Note above that revolving credit by consumers started at $799 billion in 2004 (second line from the bottom), steadily rose to $975 billion by the second quarter of 2008 (22% increase over 4 years), and then started dropping. American’s credit card bills finally ended up at $905 billion by July of 2009 (a 7% decrease).  Pretty interesting to see how the recession has affected our consumer debt habits (probably should have decreased more than 7%!).

The Federal Reserve has another report called the “Beige Book”, and it is published 8 times per year by the Federal Reserve as a sort of “state of the economy” in the twelve districts around the country.  Its less statistical data, and more anecdotal in nature, making it easier for the lay person (like me) to understand.  A recent reading of the January report as compared to the most recent September report should give us cause to rejoice.  The economy finally seems to be stabilizing and possibly headed for more positive ground.

January “Beige Book” Quotes (editorial comment: “it sucked eggs”)

“Overall economic activity continued to weaken across almost all of the Federal Reserve Districts since the previous reporting period.”

“Conditions in residential real estate markets continued to worsen in most Districts.”

“Reports of retail sales during the holiday season were generally negative in most Districts.”

“According to reports from the New York District, year-end bonuses at financial firms are seen falling 20 to 30 percent from a year ago at some of the smaller firms but more substantially at the larger establishments.”

September “Beige Book” Quotes (editorial comment:  ”woot! woot!”)

“A majority of Districts confirmed that the “cash-for-clunkers” program boosted traffic and sales. Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis also noted increases or planned increases in automobile-related production.”

“Most Districts noted that demand remained stronger at the low-end of the housing market.”

“Kansas City and Richmond cited increasing demand for technology-related services. Healthcare services in Minneapolis also experienced an uptick in demand.”

“Most Districts reported modest improvements in the manufacturing sector.”

All in all, I would say these reports are exciting.  You can still read caution in the September report, but you can find optimism there too.  My clients have had a rough year, and I’m looking for some relief for them.  And that always spells relief for my firm as well.  So, chin up, America.  We’re coming out of this, dang it!

Jason M. Blumer, CPA, is the Managing Shareholder of Blumer & Associates, CPAs in South Carolina, and the writer of the THRIVEal blog.  He and his firm are notoriously addicted to preaching, installing and improving the processes in their firm, their client’s businesses and their industry as a whole.  Their interests lie in helping their clients THINK, RESPOND, GROW and  THRIVE.  With a niche focus on the newer generations in the professional services industries, Jason and his team often wear flip flops and jeans to work and refer to their client base as “dudes”.

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Random Thought: How much change has occurred?

I was having a conversation yesterday with an online friend and we were discussing the movement of people into the freelance/entrepreneurial world and also the usage of telework resources.  One of the discussions that we were having revolved around whether this was a product of the current economic situation or whether the economic situation just pushed it along.  To me it’s a very interesting point and I think that it really could affect your business planning.

You could argue that the ball was already rolling in the direction of telework before the economy began to slow.  With the high gas prices and the green movement many people were trying to find ways to reduce driving and expense.  Also, there was a huge wave of support building for companies to be more environmentally friendly.  This was one solution that they were considering.

It probably also makes sense that as the movement to telework begins to make more sense that you would find many people venturing into the freelance or entrepreneurial direction.  Since many companies are considering the work from home option, it would be a great time to also convince them that you could be a consultant to them instead.  Telework also makes owning your own enterprise cheaper and easier as long as it’s accepted by your clients.  Just last week, I was talking to another friend who said that he tried to start a law firm business of his own some years ago and had to rent a small office space because his clients wouldn’t have accepted him working out of his basement.  Today, I think that’s changed.

The other side of the coin would say that the increasing jobless rate is driving the entrepreneurial ventures and also the telecommuting.  People are starting businesses when they can’t find jobs and working out of their homes.  Businesses are looking to cut costs so they are hiring cheaper freelance/small business resources instead of the large firms they had been using.  Also to cut costs, businesses are seeing the cost savings of allowing employees to work from home.

Honestly, I think that both arguments are probably true.  It is mixture of the two and one is partially causing the other.  I do believe that part of what we are seeing is driven by the current economics.  Also, I believe that a shift is occurring toward a more outsourced remote workforce.  This shift is coming as a mixture of the technology available, green movement, and the priority of cost cutting.

My real question is will better economics cause a slow down in entrepreneurial activity?  Will we go back to the old status quo of everyone working in the office should things get better? Or are we truly seeing a shift to a more outsourced remote workforce?  Don’t just lurk… voice your thoughts!

Be daring…be creative!

Jeremy

Jeremy Lattimore is the creative problem solving guru behind RefocusingTechnology.com and Borea Systems.  Currently, he’s obsessed with business automation/efficiency and social networks.  His question to you is: “How is your technology making you more efficient TODAY?”.

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Four Ways to Combat Commoditization in Your Industry

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post on Commoditization at my other blog, and it hit a few cords with readers.  I explained what I meant if a business was being commoditized.  Some readers were a little disturbed to know that they were being commoditized right out of their own market place.  Others desperately wanted to know what can be done.  Let’s explore what we can do to avoid commoditization in your industry, or how to change our business models to counteract this change.  Here are four ways:

1.  Consider how new technologies are affecting your business.  Commoditization is often caused by technological changes that allow services to now become automated, thereby making human intervention no longer necessary.  This may cause you to totally revamp your services and offer new ones.  Technological changes (much like the Industrial Revolution) often abolish older methods of production and require innovations toward totally new methods of service and production.  It may be time to change your business because of new technology.  Consider it.

2.  Make your product or service different.  Here is a quote from my other blog on this topic: “…if what you are doing shows no effectual differentiation between your competitors, then you better wake up!  You are being commoditized.”  When a service becomes so like its competitors then there is no value-added piece to one service provider over another.  That means you can’t charge a value-added fee or price, and the lower price dealer always wins.  It stinks to play there.  There is no reason a consumer would pay more for the service because what they are receiving is the same from all providers.  So, develop a different way to serve.  Add a piece to your service or product that packages well with the core service or product that you offer, and charge for it.

3.  Move your production or service upstream.  Commoditization happens downstream form the early initial innovation, creation and great value found upstream.  In my industry, offering payroll and accounting services is becoming commoditized, so we moved upstream.  We still offer these core services to those who need them, but now we’ve created some innovative models of service for our clients.  We also offer business coaching, process improvement consulting, fraud/forensics litigation support and other specialized methods of service for the entrepreneur (e.g., dashboarding).  We can charge more for these services because they offer higher value to the client.  Think about where the most profit is made in your business, and move your service there.  Hint: it’s probably going to be where the most brain-intensive thought and innovation is needed.  Generally, avoid offering automated services.

4.  Question your industry and how things are delivered or created for the consumer.  Don’t get too carried away with questioning the way things have always been, this is just an exercise to make sure you are on the cutting edge of what you do.  Questioning your industry makes you explain why things have always been done the way they have been done – and sometimes you figure out that things are being done poorly.  Questioning often leads to innovation, which is the purpose of this questioning process.  And, as mentioned above in #3, innovation often comes along with the highest profit in most businesses.

Do you have any other ideas on how to avoid commoditization?

Thanks, Jason M. Blumer, CPA

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What’s your idea that won’t work?

I will honestly say that I never ceased to be amazed by the creativity people have and the ability to sell things that I would have never even considered.  As a software guy, I’m always thinking of this huge system that some gigantic business will need as the next great opportunity and someone comes up with a tool that only allows you to correspond with people with a 160 characters.  Of course the simple little application, Twitter, explodes.

A few years back, I remember the Million Dollar homepage.  Someone came up with the simple idea of creating a site that sold individual pixels on a page for $1 a piece.  There were 1 million pixels… so the site was worth 1,000,000 dollars.  Through purely viral methods the site exploded and many people bought the pixels for ad space.

Just recently, I was introduced to the I Wear Your Shirt blog where Jason had the idea to market the very shirt on his back.  He sells the opportunity for him to wear your shirt for a day.  The price is based on the day of the year for 2009 (Jan 1 = $1  Dec 31 = $365).  He also allows for monthly sponsorships.  He has sold out 2009 and at last count the first 5 months of 2010.  In fact, the plan has changed a little for 2010.  He added a partner who will also wear your shirt and promote it on social media so it’s day of year times 2 (Jan 1 = $2  Dec 31 = $730).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sell out 2010 before 2010 even starts.

My point is not to call these ideas silly, stupid, or anything like that.  It is to point out that if you have an idea… give it a try.  In today’s world many things that don’t meet the “common” perception are exploding on the Internet.

Is it time that you started your online Ethiopian cooking channel?  Maybe so.  Is it time to build that piece of software that little application that you wanted to for the iPhone?  Probably.

What are you waiting for?

Be daring…be creative!

Jeremy

Jeremy Lattimore is the creative problem solving guru behind RefocusingTechnology.com and Borea Systems.  Currently, he’s obsessed with business automation/efficiency and social networks.  His question to you is: “How is your technology making you more efficient TODAY?”.

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